The Talos Principle: Review - Games Weekly

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Talos Principle: Review

There’s nothing so satisfying as when you solve one of The Talos Principle’s puzzles. The locked door swings open, you collect the item you’ve been looking for and a sweet sting of music plays to signal that this one, finally, has been crossed off the list. It’s only a game, and the conundrums have been expertly designed so that anyone, with enough patience and rumination, can crack them. But still, you feel intelligent just by playing.

It’s a superb mix of triple-A production value and creatively driven game making. The Talos Principle looks and sounds fantastic, on par with most big budget games. At the same time, it challenges your logic rather than your twitch reflexes it plays with emotions more complex than excitement or fun.

You coulde asily compareit to Portal. The various puzzle components, introduced and explained to you one by one, have a distinct Aperture Science aesthetic. You must redirect lasers beams to open locks, jump on electric fans to propel yourself over obstacles and dodge automated turrets using cunning. But this is a much more po-faced affair than Valve’s comedy puzzler. The Talos Principle , named after the philosophical concept that dictates man is no different to machine, takes broad swings at various metaphysical questions. What is consciousness? What is intuition? And if those things could be replicated by artificial intelligence, what would separate God from a person, or a person from a machine?

It’s an ambitious topic, if a little adolescent. In the world of videogames, The Talos Principle  stands out simply for trying to be smart. But its lofty themes feel affected and under-explored, less like a rigorous exploration, and more like conjecture from an undergrad philosophy student. At its core, The Talos Principle isn’t interested in humanity, or questions about being. It’s more about the tension between a game developer and their player whether freedom to express yourself in a game is more important than following the path as laid out for you. You’re monitored by Elohim , a booming, disembodied voice that tells you where you may and may not explore. The equivalent of BioShock’s Atlas, he’s there to throw you off the scent of what’s really going on. Ignore his orders and his warnings, and there are interesting things to find.

The Talos Principle confidently unpacks this relationship, between developer and player, but it’s retreading a topic that’s been discussed more competently in a myriad of games over the past ten years. The narrative end game of The Talos Principle is a total cop-out it eschews complex philosophical querying in favour of trite observations on the nature of gaming. Still, it’s more sophisticated than most titles on Steam, and the puzzles have been refined bya teamof true craftsmen.

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